Thinking outside the box to bring families together

By Carrie Stefanson

Shipping containers are used in a variety of ways, from transporting cargo to being stacked to form ultra-modern apartments. Queen’s Park Care Centre is using an upcycled container to connect families with loved ones in care. The container – now known as the Visitor Centre, accommodates private, yet distanced visits for one resident and up to four visitors at a time. The visits follow all public health guidelines. The shipping container is heated and furnished, with separate entrances for residents and families. A plexiglass partition separates the two spaces.

“It’s an innovative way to bring families together,” says Karl Segnoe, whose 92-year-old grandmother lives at Queen’s Park Care Centre. “I have every confidence in the staff to keep my grandmother safe, but I fear social isolation is taking a toll on her well-being. Being able to visit as a family is huge because my grandmother is such an important person in our lives.”

Up until now, families wishing to visit their loved one together could do so via a window visit, where a health care worker brings a resident to a window at a specified time for a visit. The visitor centre is an alternative to window visits, providing a dry, warm place to have a window visit with residents and patients.

Window visits will continue for larger groups, as will virtual visits.

The shipping container where residents can visit loved ones.

“Residents in long term care and their families have endured so much during the pandemic,” says Dr. Victoria Lee, president and CEO, Fraser Health. “I’m grateful to the Queen’s Park Healthcare Foundation for helping us move this project forward so families can connect with their loved ones in this unique way.”

It was an idea from staff at Queen’s Park Care Centre that prompted Elizabeth Kelly, the executive director of the Queen’s Park Healthcare Foundation, to get the ball rolling.

“We had the space, so I applied for a $25,000 federal grant,” says Kelly. “All of us at Queen’s Park Care Centre are looking forward to the day when COVID-19 is behind us and we can remove the partition in the visitor centre so families can celebrate together and hug each other. The pandemic has taught us that the small things in life are really the most important.”

Carrie Stefanson is senior consultant, Communications and Public Affairs at Fraser Health in British Columbia.